I’m Aware… So?

Yesterday was Autism Awareness Day, and apparently April is designated as Autism Awareness Month.

(Why April, out of curiosity?  Is it because it also starts with the letter A?  I have no idea.  These months seem to be assigned rather arbitrarily.)

At my house, yesterday was Monday, and April is still April.  And yes, we are very aware of autism.  It lives in our house, eats our food, watches our TV, and inhabits the brain of one of our children.

So… awareness achieved!  Now what?

I truly believe that those who are pushing autism awareness are genuine and well-intentioned people.  Many of them are parents with children who are much lower-functioning than my child, many of them have multiple children on the spectrum, and many of them would kill to have their child acquire the skills that Tad has.  Many of them don’t have easy access to social services that could really help them.  Many of them can’t afford those services.  And many of them live very isolated lives, without the support of friends or family – and sometimes, without a spouse.

My experience with autism is much different.  We are on speaking terms, but I do not find it an agreeable or helpful housemate.  Autism does limit me in many ways, but it has also changed my perspective permanently and given me a much more forgiving view of life.  It also has distilled my life and taken away so much of the flotsam that could overwhelm me.  I made a promise to myself that I would really focus on what Tad can do and not on what he cannot do, and I really do try to live that promise.  I also realize how incredibly blessed we are.  Tad is high-functioning.  I can take him into a store and he can (generally) control himself.  He does not have debilitating sensory issues.  He talks to me and calls me “Mama.”  He is potty trained.  He can read.  He has teachers who support him and therapists who care about him.  We can afford those therapists.  We live in a school district that has fantastic special education programs.  We have an incredibly supportive and loving extended family who know Tad and love him and rejoice over his every achievement.  We have a large circle of friends who are also very supportive and kind.

Are there things that I wish Tad could do?  Absolutely.  Do I spend time dwelling on them?  No.  Do I want him to always keep learning and progressing to the best of his ability and with as many therapies as we can get for him?  Yes!  Do I want him “cured?”  I have no idea what that means anymore, to be honest, when it comes to Tad.  I count my blessings and praise God for His mercies, and I do not cry over what I can’t have.

What I think is really called for is a measure of acknowledgement within society at large.  There should be an acceptance that autism is a real disorder, and a realization that not every autistic child is either a “Rain Man” or a Temple Grandin.  But I truly believe that society is changed at the individual level.  It is changed when Tad sits in a mainstream kindergarten class, reading with other children who may know he is “different,” but that he is right there with him.  Tad is terrible with names, but whenever I walk around his school with him, he is greeted by name by so many other kids that it boggles my mind.  He makes an impression wherever he goes, and he is altering perceptions, one child and peer at a time.

Society is changed when Tad behaves well, but doesn’t look someone in the eye.  It is changed when he has a meltdown and every eye is turned toward him, and I either explain or I don’t.

What I truly want is not awareness, but acknowledgement.  I want those who are struggling to be helped.  I want the lonely and isolated to find support and friendship.  I want help and therapy to be available to every child who needs it.

And not just this April, not just this last Monday.  Autism lives here, and it won’t be leaving at the end of the month, when we move on to the next “thing” (May is National Scrapbooking Month, in case you weren’t aware of it).

So, now we’re all aware?  Great.  Now, let’s try and meet it and know it.  You might be surprised at what you find.

One Response to “I’m Aware… So?”

  1. Erin Lyttle
    April 3rd, 2012 14:19

    His elementary is a special place. When I pick my son up from there as well I am also amazed at how many people greet him by name. I think it speaks well to the school that they place a high degree of importance on how kids treat each other 🙂